Matt Mooney isn’t leaving Air Force quietly.
The transferring freshman point guard took numerous shots at the academy in an interview with the Pioneer Press. Mooney alleged bullying from Air Force upperclassmen and expressed his displeasure with the Falcons’ offense that he felt requires you to “play like robots.”
Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich announced early this month that Mooney had told him he would seek a transfer. Pilipovich said Mooney hadn’t embraced the military aspect of the academy and had struggled with it throughout his time at Air Force.
Mooney, in the Q&A with his hometown paper, elaborated on his position.
“I honestly have no problem with the military, it's just the Air Force Academy isn't the same as the military,” Mooney told the paper. “It's a much different place.”
He explained the difficulties placed upon freshmen to see if they can stick it out, but in his opinion it went beyond typical military training.
“There's a lot of bullying and things like that, honestly, because the system is (run) by upperclassmen,” Mooney said. “And freshmen have no power, whatsoever.”
He cited the example that freshmen are required to run between classes. One frigid morning at about 6:45 an upperclassmen told him he wasn’t running fast enough and made him drop to do pushups.
“That's kind of the stuff they can do. There's a lot of examples, but that's one of them.
“There’s a lot of great people there, too, but a lot of the reasons a lot of people leave is just because of things like that — upperclassmen, especially. When they leave freshman year, it's upperclassmen and just not being treated the way you feel you should be treated.”
Mooney took to social media on Tuesday to clarify his position.
“The article was taken completely out of context. I am not leaving because of "bullying." USAFA is a great place with lots of great people too,” he wrote on Twitter.
The academy responded to Mooney’s allegations through spokesman Meade Warthen, who said Mooney was not singled out and received the same training as everyone else. He conceded that the training is very difficult, but is done with the purpose of gaining physical fitness and training cadets to respond to physical and mental stress.
Mooney said the harsh treatment from the upperclassmen did not extend to the basketball team, where players look out for each other. He said he “loved the coaching staff and the teammates,” at Air Force, but he did not like the playing style.
“I didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into, especially the way the Air Force Academy runs a Princeton-style offense,” he said. “I watched them play and they told me they run the Princeton, but I didn't actually really know what it was like until playing in it. And it's very restrictive. You kind of play like robots, pretty much. There's not really basketball instincts involved — like you don't read and react, you go from piece to piece to piece. And I didn't really like playing like that.”
Mooney also complained about the inability to return home, saying his chances to see his family were essentially limited to a few days at Christmas and three weeks in the summer.
The basketball team also had spring break away from the academy.
What Mooney didn’t mention is that he had a year at the prep school to adjust to the military lifestyle and the basketball scheme and still made the decision to attend.
He’s being a bit more thorough in his search for his next school. He said he has offers from South Dakota, Colgate, Penn, New Hampshire and Louisiana-Lafayette.
He wants a school with strong academics, but …
“I'd probably say basketball is my main focus,” he said.
Air Force and its supporters would probably say that was why he wasn’t a fit.
Pilipovich said he learned Tuesday of the comments made by Mooney, who started eight games, averaged 6.9 points and was suspended for one game for throwing a punch in defense of a teammate during his freshman season.
“We wish him well,” Pilipovich said.